Two reports on Wednesday about the commercial and public sectors' exploration of alternatives to 'life as we've known it' for television advertising and public service announcements. From MediaWorks:
Almost 70% of advertisers believe DVRs and VOD will reduce or destroy the effectiveness of traditional 30-second commercials. Instead, they are looking at alternatives such as branded entertainment within TV programs (61%), TV program sponsorships (55%), interactive advertising during TV programs (48%), online video ads (45%) and product placement (44%). Additionally, 80% will spend more of their advertising budgets on Web advertising and 68% are looking into search engine marketing.
The Kaiser Family Foundation held a forum Tuesday on New Media and the Future of Public Service Advertising. A report featuring case studies of projects that have successfully used new media includes VERB (8372), Fight Mannequinism, Above the Influence, Gain from Gyaan, National Day to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy, Small Step and Girls Go Tech.
As you would expect, most of these campaigns focused on younger audiences and the use of text messaging, or SMS, as an adjunct to (1) a website and (2) PSAs and paid advertising on television, radio and websites and in various print media. The generic game plan that predominates across these programs is (a) set up a web site with information and/or 'cool stuff' to interact with or download, (b) promote like crazy through traditional media and the web - now it's new!, (3) use cell phones and text messaging as a response channel, (4) push messages and alerts out to participants who opt-in at the web site or through SMS to receive them (you'll recognize this in the proposal as 'permission marketing' - doesn't that feel better?), and (5) measure results by eyeballs and click throughs.
Not exactly 'new' in many cases, though I did see some glimmers of audience generated content in a few programs and viral messages for SMS. More like old wine (creative for the old media) poured into some 'new' bottles.
There are some understandable concerns about engaging with new media - especially by government agencies - that have [a lot] to do with losing control of messages and their distribution. The emergence of new media, and particularly social media, enables users to connect with people and create, repurpose and mashup content to establish and strengthen social networks. It is the antithesis of the 'top down' or inoculation model of communications practiced by the advertising community and so many of its imitators in the public and nonprofit sectors. Here's a place to start thinking about how to use social media that is also 'technology free' - old fashioned interpersonal communications is still the driver of behavior change. It's not about using new technologies, it's about new ways to use technology.
The promise of social media lies in its ability to empower audiences rather than continuing to transform them into passive vessels into which we are trying to 'pour' our messages. The saying that 'public health has messages while people have lives' is one to take to heart as you consider using the new media in your programs. Employ the technologies as your audience are using them in their daily lives, not as an extension of radio and television formats. Perhaps someone is working on the 2006 version of the "1984" commercial to depict the shift from old to new media? Pick up you hammer.